The Next Delusion

Seeing Reality and Looking the Other Way

Six Reasons Why I Love Poker

I love poker. I love being a woman who plays poker well (or at least passably). To clarify, by poker I mean No Limit Texas Hold ’em, which Momus and I might play occassionally. Sometimes cash games, sometimes tournaments. I win some, I lose more, but I almost always have fun. At times over the past few years, poker has been our primary form of entertainment. Those probably weren’t the healthiest times.  We play less now, but Hold ’em has a permanent hold ‘on my heart.  Here are the top six reasons why:

I'm All In

I’m All In   WSOP Ring and Cash by Larry Kang

1) The rush.  Hold ’em is a supercharged adrenaline rush of a game.  Any game involving money hits that speed button for most people.  A game where you can win $400 in 4.5 seconds?  Priceless.  Of course you can also lose $400 in 4.5 seconds, but let’s not focus on that.

2) Poker is like chess, only sexy.  Texas Hold ’em is a game of extremely complicated strategy that requires intellectual effort, an ability to read other people and understand why they are taking a certain action, a knowledge of statistical odds, and  a comfort with calculations (which sadly I completely lack). The beauty of Hold ’em is that you can learn how to play in just a few minutes, but it takes a lifetime to master.  You’re always learning, and you have to keep your whole brain engaged to play well (or you will encounter that $400 loss at an unsustainable frequency).  Some of the poker greats have been chess masters before they turned to Hold ’em. But they’re not showing the World Chess Championship on ESPN for 12 weeks every fall.

3) The seedy factor.  As a suburban mom who does data analysis for a living, I love the instant thug cred of saying “I’m a poker player.” I love that feeling every time I sit down at a table that I’m doing something slightly illicit. Taking a walk on the dark side. Of course, all of my play actually happens in shiny casinos and brightly lit, officially sanctioned card rooms, so it’s largely a mirage.  But I can still imagine myself as a sort of renegade mom with a secret life.

4) I love being a girl who plays poker. Women make up less than 10 percent of all poker players. Typically when I sit down to a table (either cash or tournament), I am the only woman at the table with a bunch of men.  I have always been more comfortable in the company of men (I feel like Blanche Dubois now).  Also, I’m a sports-loving, beer drinking woman who hates to shop and couldn’t care less what the Kardashians are up to.  I would rather talk about the Celtics’ prospects this season, and the odds we land Kevin Love (now zero% for those playing at home) than what Beyonce has included in her coffee table book or where to find the best Uggs (see, I don’t even know what’s fashionable right now).

5) I love being the girl at the table. This is slightly different from the above.  Women tend to be poor poker players; probably a combination of a lack of experience and less of a tendency towards aggression than men.  I don’t want it to be true – and there are exceptions of course – but it’s what I have observed.  I am better at the game than the average (female) bear.  I love that men make certain assumptions about me and my play because I’m a woman that are dead wrong.  It allows me to be more profitable. Also, there is no better feeling than that moment when I see the recognition in another player’s eyes “Shit, she really knows what she’s doing!” I get instant respect.  No other activity in my life allows such immediate positive feedback.  I think it’s even a bigger rush than winning the hand.

6) I get to be sociable with strangers and not have a panic attack. I have mentioned before that I have some mild social anxieties that keep me out of malls, crowds, and largely off telephones. Somehow the setup of poker doesn’t cause the fear to kick in. Maybe it’s something about the fact that you are dealing with a universe of only 8 or 9 other people at a given time. Typically no one knows each other, and you don’t have to say a single word if you don’t want to. Nonetheless it is a highly social experience and feeds that part of me that fantasizes about being an extrovert without actually having to engage with other human beings.

I’m all in!

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16 thoughts on “Six Reasons Why I Love Poker

  • I love love love Texas Hold Em! I came in third at a one-hundred person tourney one of the first times I played and have been hooked ever since. Every time we go on a cruise I play and that table is MINE!


  • Cassandra says:

    Winning does suck you in. I moneyed in a couple of low buy in tournaments early. I think that pretty much sealed my fate. Even though it took me over a year to get into the money again, that possibility was always out there.

  • ManicMom says:

    Interesting. We recently taught our kids poker, and they wiped us out in five hands – both are fairly experienced chess players, so it makes some sense. I haven’t been big into the game before, but your comment about instant thug cred is so compelling, I may have to revisit.

    • Cassandra says:

      It really does feel great to have a hobby that is so opposite the rest of my entire life.

      I have taught my son poker as well. He loves the game, but sadly he is a calling station. It will be a while before he is beating Momus and I.

  • qwertygirl says:

    Funny that you’re more comfortable with men, but you went to an all-girls high school! My husband loves poker. I should probably get him to teach our kids to play. They need to get good fast–I can’t afford four college tuitions!

  • Cassandra says:

    Yeah, I think the all-girls high school is part of WHY I prefer the company of men. That was a whole lot of estrogen rushing around in one place.

  • Eric says:

    I’m not a player, but maybe I should start since I can totally relate to #6 on the list. I’m only completely comfortable in the company of absolutely nobody and the thought of going to WalMart requires a Valium overdose just to get in the car.

    Perhaps suggesting a gambling addiction to my therapist will win me some points!

    • Cassandra says:

      Once again, you sound like my people. I’m telling you, this is the most comfortable I ever feel in the company of strangers. Malls, movie theaters, and large crowds at sporting events make me cry. Poker – bring it on!

  • Phil says:

    I used to love watching the World Poker Tour on tv. Now I can’t seem to find it anymore. It just disappeared.

    Some players had fun personalities and great strategies.

    • Cassandra says:

      Up here it’s running right now on Comcast Sports Net. The WSOP Main Event starts on ESPN at the end of September and runs for a couple of months. Not that we’re keeping track…

  • Aussa Lorens says:

    There’s always a “seedy factor” underlying our best choices 😉

    • Momus says:

      Yeah, the number of interesting people I’ve met in any professional setting (at least the ones my careers have exposed me too) I can count on one hand. I can exceed that on one night at any random poker tournament or pub trivia or in hanging out with any of my father’s hard living journalist cohort. Seedy should be the new normal, we’d all have more fun.

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